By Aaron Orendorff published March 19, 2017

Humanize Your Brand: 3 Ways to Create a Visual Social Media Calendar

visual-social-media-calendar

Social media is arguably the most powerful growth tool on the internet. Ironically, it’s also the most difficult to master.

In a study by Ascend2, 40% of digital marketers cited social as the “most difficult” channel to master (a tie for first with websites). Asked to identify the most difficult tactic on this most difficult channel, the answer — by a landslide — was three words: creating compelling content.

image16

How can you rescue your social media approach and create truly compelling content?

The easiest way is to create a visually based social media calendar built around three of the primary reasons humans engage with social media:

  • Holidays
  • Events
  • Trends

Celebrate holidays

At the risk of stating the obvious, marketing revolves around holidays: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Halloween, Presidents Day, etc.

Augment your holiday promotions with original content that celebrates the holiday … not your products or sales. Chubbies does this brilliantly and gets phenomenal engagement as its reward:

In 2015, Samuel Adams reached viral status with its April Fool’s campaign announcing the release of a new “heliYUM” beer.

The real social gold, however, is in the obscure holidays: Batman Day (Sept. 17, according to DC Comics), Star Wars Day (May 4), Bubblegum Day (Feb. 3 — not to be confused with Chewing Gum Day on Sept. 30), and many, many more.

Celebrate obscure holidays for real #socialmedia gold, says @Iconicontent. Click To Tweet

Building a visual social media calendar around these types of holidays involves two steps.

First, get to know your audience. Outside of the usual suspects, the prioritized holidays should be a direct reflection of the people you serve. Sometimes a connection will be obvious. If it’s not, dig into Facebook Audience Insights to find pages and events your fans like, as well as the hashtags they frequently share.

Second, get organized. Set up a visual calendar. Consider using tools like PromoRepublic, which are tailor-made to automate this approach.

PromoRepublic-visual-calendar

Click to enlarge

What I really love about PromoRepublic are the holiday suggestions and ready-made social-media templates that extend into the other areas we’ll get into later.

PromoRepublic-social-media-templates

Image source: PromoRepublic

The beautiful thing about holidays is that people are thinking about them. What they aren’t thinking about is your brand.

By creating holiday-centered social media posts, you’ll stay relevant and spike your customer interest. Always remember though, to keep it about the celebration and sprinkle in promotional content a little bit at a time.

Create events

Every business hosts events. Whether it’s an upcoming conference, annual sale, or crab feed, social media is ripe for generating attention as long as that event is presented socially.

How?

To start, go back to the last method and take a page out of Red Mango’s playbook. On Frozen Yogurt Day, the company created an event worth paying attention to. Namely, $5 fill-ups.

Red-Mango-create-events

Events also can be built around brand milestones. Consider Old Navy’s celebration when it hit 5 million fans — it unfolded first in video form (before and after the milestone), followed with images, and only then led to a promotion:

Create-event-Old-Navy

Create-event-Old-Navy-promotion

On the SaaS business front, Dropbox did the same thing last year when it crossed the 500-million-user mark:

Dropbox

As for conferences, the vast majority of booth sponsors do little more than announce their presence with thoroughly anti-social stop-by-and-see-us posts.

Not Conductor. In the weeks before Content Marketing World 2016, it released a video — Watch SEO and Content Go to Couples Therapy — and featured it across its social platforms as well as in partnership emails with this line at the end: “PS: Going to Content Marketing World? We’ll see you there. Swing by booth #41 to take your chances on our slot machine and to connect with our team. Learn more.”

Conductor

That approach stood out because before I even noticed the P.S., I had clicked the video link, watched it, shared it on social, followed Conductor, and up-voted the post on both Inbound.org and GrowthHackers. When I went back to the email to write a personal response, only then did I realize they were going to be at CMWorld. Conductor was one of the few booths I sought out onsite.

On a more humanizing note, consider using social media to highlight a charity or cause. charity: water often creates unique campaigns for its partners such as Keurig. The coffee company launched #brewviewgive in 2014 and the campaign exploded:

charity-water-Keurig

Sock maker Bombas built its business around a humanitarian emphasis and its social media presence is a constant platform for announcing new initializes and celebrating big wins with their product naturally at the center:

For all their diversity, notice the commonalities between the examples. They’re tied to events. Each one is also visually rich, often in a variety of content forms, and thoroughly human. The posts on social media drive engagement and awareness without being heavy-handed or even self-centered. That is exactly the approach your social media calendar should embrace.

#Socialmedia posts excel when they drive engagement & awareness w/out being self-centered. @IconiContent Click To Tweet

Embrace trends

Some social media trends pop up out of nowhere. Some occur with calendar-led regularity.

Whatever the reason, trends are powerful icons of the unity we can cultivate, from silly videos, to awkward challenges, to genuine movements and causes. Using these icons — and hashtags — in your social media marketing helps your audience feel like they (and you) are a part of those trends.

At the just-for-fun level, pre-planned trending topics regularly create some of the best branded content. For example, the Academy Awards always get lots of social attention. Anticipating this, Charmin, the toilet paper company, tweeted (without mentioning the trademarked name), to become part of the social conversation:

Embrace-trends-Charmin

Birchbox capitalizes on trend-setting events numerous times a year with its Pinterest boards, On the Red Carpet and Women Who Inspire, which connects with their Elizabeth Arden partnership to spread the word about International Women’s Day.

Birchbox

Not surprisingly, the Super Bowl and sporting events present a wealth of calendar opportunities like this one from Cheerios:

Cheerios

Plenty of other standouts exist, but the prize for best social media on trend easily goes to BarkBox with its usual irreverent style:

BarkBox

On the pop-culture front, the candy brand KitKat creatively used the problematic bending iPhone 6 Plus in its social media campaign:

KitKat

Similarly, office-products company Viking UK used Star Wars, a perennial pop-cultural trend, to attract social attention when it redesigned its offices — racking up 11,000 native views on Facebook and another 55,000 views on YouTube. It also used the blockbuster movie in subsequent promotions.

Viking-UK

Viking-UK-Star-Wars

Once again, let’s notice what unites all these social promotions:

  • Each is built around predictable trends: pop-culture events, mainstream phenomena, and product launches.
  • Each is visually rich and diverse in both media format and platforms.
  • Each focuses on the social nature — the human side — rather than leveraging the trend in a heavy-handed, self-promotional way.
Build your #socialmedia promotions around predictable trends, says @iconicontent. Click To Tweet

Put together your visual social media calendar

The calendar should be a marketer’s best friend. Bridging the gap between social media’s monstrous reach and its equally monstrous challenges means humanizing your social media approach itself. The easiest way to do this is through a visually based social media calendar.

At the end of the day, it’s not just easier, but it’s also far more effective to piggyback on what’s already going on in the world of social than to drum up something from scratch. Just remember to make it about the holiday, event, or trend — what your audience cares about — instead of making it all about your brand. That’s the only way your social approach will be genuinely social.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Author: Aaron Orendorff

By night, Aaron Orendorff is busy “saving the world from bad content” over at iconiContent. By day, he teaches communication and philosophy at the local college. Follow him on Twitter.

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  • http://breadnbeyond.com/articles/ Nat

    Hi Aaron,
    It seems like the story of each campaign still the most interested thing. Both trend and brand related by the story within.

    It’s awesome piece! Thanks.

    • http://www.iconiContent.com Aaron Orendorff

      Oh absolutely … it has to revolve around the story that’s ALREADY out there (not the brand).

      But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate, join in, and leverage it. 😉

  • https://animaker.com Arvind Kesh

    Superb article Aaron!

    I was actually brainstorming for creative ways to engage in FB live videos. I have 10 times more ideas after reading your article. Cheerio!! ?

    • http://www.iconiContent.com Aaron Orendorff

      LOVE to hear that! (Just love it.)

      Thanks so much, Arvind. 😀

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  • Supreme Landscaping

    Hey Aaron

    I love this article and I’ll be using some of these ideas almost immediately.

    On the subject of humanizing our brand, we had an 87 year old guy buy our EASY Joint paving compound earlier this week and he was going to use it himself after he saw how easy it was on the YouTube video, now this guy needs some celebrating, right?

    What a brilliant story! How human is this?

    I’d thought about it as an idea and then reading this article inspired me to consider taking it further. My only concern is making him feel under pressure, I don’t want to do that, he was so cool, to chat to and 87’s quite old, right? Maybe I’ll email him and ask him how he got on?

    Thanks Aaron, keep up the great work.

    • http://iconicontent.com/ Aaron Orendorff

      If you didn’t send out a camera crew (or at least make him reenact it in front of your phone) … SHAME on you!

      😉

      But seriously, that’s gold right there and it’d make a better campaign than ANYTHING a marketer like me could cook up.

      Lastly, thx (as always) for the kind words.

      • Supreme Landscaping

        Hi Aaron, Ray sent me his photographs and I’ve just finished my article, I’ll send you a copy. I just had to mention this article, it’s where the inspiration began. Cheers, Peter

        • http://www.iconiContent.com Aaron Orendorff

          Awesome! Where should I keep an eye out for the link?

          • Supreme Landscaping

            Hi Aaron, I did Tweet you immediately, knew you’d like it! but go to http://www.supremelp.co.uk and check out the latest blog post! Ray is a complete star!

  • Kontentino

    Hi there, great article! We do agree content is very important and in that order Kontentino is all about collaboration between colleagues and clients so only approved content will get to see a world 🙂